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RE: PE-Bureacracy

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First, let me straighten you out a little.  California does not currently
use any of the NCEES tests for getting you SE license in California
(beyond getting your PE license).  They use what is called the Western
States Exam, which is essentially an exam created for and used only in
California at this time (used to be used by some other states as I
understand it).  It is a 16 hour exam that covers only structural
problems, but includes a wide range of structural problem subjects (i.e.
wood, steel, concrete, masonry, seismic, etc).  FYI, there is some talk of
this changing in the future, which would result in California using
national exams produced by someone like NCEES.  As I understand it, there
is pressure from the state legislature to move in this direction.

Now, what I don't know (and someone from California could probably answer
who has taken the PE test recently) is if California uses the NCEES Civil
PE exam (likely) and/or the NCEES Structural I PE exam.  NCEES has two
potential PE level exams that a person in structural could take...the
Civil and the Structural I exam.  Format-wise they are the same in the
sense that they will have the same number of problems of the same type
(i.e. all multiple choice now).  Where they very is content-wise.  The
NCEES Civil exam is just that...a general civil engineering exam, which
means that you will have to answer questions on topics outside of
structural engineering in addition to some structural problems (i.e. waste
water treatment, geotech, transportation, material, environmental, etc).
They have recently changed the content of the Civil exam to "specialize"
it to a certain degree.  Currently the exam is setup (at least as I
understand it) so that you answer all general questions in the morning 4
hour portion, but then you choose a "speciality" for the afternoon and the
problem will then focus more on that speciality along with the closer
related specialies (i.e. if you choose structural, then you get some
geotech questions along with your mostly structural questions).  The
Structural I exam, on the other hand, is ALL structural questions.

As I said, I don't know what California requires.  I do know that in
addition to having to take the 8 hour NCEES exam (likely the Civil one but
could be the Structural I exam), you have to take a 2 hour (I believe)
surveying, a 2 hour (I believe) seismic, and a "take home" ethics exam.

Now, strictly speaking you can potentially run into problems if you have
taken one exam (let's say the NCEES Structural I exam for example sake)
but not the other (the NCEES Civil exam in our example) if you wish to
obtain reciprosity in another state.  Some states don't offer both exams
and essentially require/accept only one exam.  If you desire reciprosity
in such a state, then you could run into the problem of them not approving
reciprosity because you have not taken the exam that they require/accept.
If so, then it only means that you must take and pass the other exam.

Now, to be honest, where you might have more problems coming from
California is the fact that California only requires two years of
experience after graduation to be able to sit for the PE exam, while every
other state that I am aware of requires 4 years.  So if you take the PE
exam in California only after two years of work experience, you are then
faced with either the best case scenario that another state would allow
you reciprocity once you have obtained the additional 2 years of
experience or the worst case scenario that the other state considers you
test results invalid since you sat for the exam two years too early and
require you to take it again.  This type of beaucracy is definitely
possible.  I have heard of a case when an engineering got his PE license
in Minnesota, but in doing so the Minnesota board let him sit for the exam
when he had just short of 4 years at teh time of application but had his 4
years by the day of the test.  He passed.  Some number of years later he
wanted to get his PE in one of the Dakotas by reciprosity, but they told
him that he had to take the test again since he did not have his four
years at the time he originally APPLIED to sit of the PE exam for his
orignial license.  Thus, they considered his test results invalid.  Now, I
don't for sure that this is a true story or even if it is whether or not
such beaucracy has been "corrected", but it would certainly not suprise me
to still see something like this still occur.

The end result is that you will have to take your best guess on which exam
to take between the Civil and Structural I or spend some time researching
(meaning calling various state PE boards) to find out what they
require/accept.  This is because the requirements vary from state to state
as do their level of enforcement.  Personally, I would suggest waiting
until you obtain 4 years of experience (at time of application) before you
take the PE exam EVEN if you at taking it in California.  The plain truth
is that you don't really techinically need you PE license unless you wish
to go out on your own, so waiting another two years won't hurt too much.
And in my experience, getting your PE license does instantly give you some
huge raise in most companies.


Ypsilanti, MI

On Mon, 6 Jan 2003, Tom Bodkin wrote:

> While we are on this subject, I do have a question regarding reciprocity
> amongst the states and I understand laws are subject to change ect.....
> I am planning on taking the P.E. Civil Engineers Exam emphasizing in
> structures.  I plan on doing most of my work in structural engineering, but
> wish to take the PE Civil/Structural Exam because I thought I heard that if
> you wish to practice in California, the sequence of exams are PE Civil,
> Structural I, then Structural II.  Also, it wouldn't hurt to learn about
> soil properties because of soil/structure interaction.
> Does taking thew civil structural exam provide better practicing
> opportunities among other states should the desire arise?  I know a PE
> structural who had been interested in moving out to California but since he
> didn't take the PE Civil exam, it precluded him from practiceing in that
> state.
> Thanks in advance for your resonses.
> Tom Bodkin, E.I.T.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Paul Crocker [mailto:paulc(--nospam--at)]
> Sent: Monday, January 06, 2003 12:04 PM
> To: 'seaint(--nospam--at)'
> Subject: RE: Florida PE-Bureacracy
> "So, at this point with licenses I have obatined and resulting tests that I
> have taken and passed, I am to the point that I can essentially get a
> license by true reciprosity in every state except California."
> Don't forget our colleagues in Alaska.  They require a cold weather
> engineering course and exam.  It looks fairly interesting, but the cost is
> high, and it is only given 1 or 2 places outside of Alaska.
> Paul Crocker, PE, SE
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